The Relationship Between Alcohol and Cardiovascular Risk
There have been many conflicting reports about the effects of alcohol on physical health. While binge drinking and behaviors associated with alcohol use disorder clearly point to adverse health consequences, some studies have shown health benefits relating to moderate use of alcohol.
It still remains that alcohol is often misused and is associated with heightened risk for liver diseases, certain cancers and multiple immediate risks, such as injury and alcohol poisoning.
A study appearing in the European Journal of Epidemiology sought to understand how wine, beer and spirits were each associated with cardiovascular events, with separate data observed between fatal and non-fatal outcomes. Led by Costanzo S. Di Casteinuovo de Gaetano G., and colleagues, the research was a meta-analysis on the relationship observed between each type of alcohol and cardiovascular event.
The researchers gathered data from 16 separate studies. Their analysis showed that there was a J-shaped relationship shown in an examination of wine intake and reduced cardiovascular risks. The data showed that the maximum protection was seen at about 21 grams/day of alcohol.
Similar results were found when the relationship between beer and cardiovascular events was examined. A J-shaped relationship was detected for beer, with maximum protection observed at 43 grams/day of alcohol.
Overall, across 12 studies providing data on beer or wine use, the information supported maximum protection at approximately 25 grams/day of alcohol, which equates to about 2 drinks per day in the United States. The meta-analysis did not provide evidence of a connection between spirits consumption and vascular disease.
One limitation of the meta-analysis is its inability to control for certain variables, unless they were included as controls in the original study. The researchers found that while many of the usual control variables were included in the studies, one major factor not evaluated was the effects of drinking patterns and behaviors on cardiovascular events. Such factors as binge drinking or frequency of alcohol consumption could be very significant in this type of analysis.
The analysis also had limited data on the connection between spirits consumption and cardiovascular events. In general, the researchers observed a decrease in risk with spirits consumption, but the association was not statistically significant.
The major finding of the analysis is the similar association pattern shown between wine and beer in connection with cardiovascular risk. The results of the study do not provide evidence that the association is due to the alcohol content of the wine or beer. Further research is necessary to explore the association.